Wednesday, November 9, 2016
For Friday: Hughes' Poetry, Part Two (and a little Marxism to boot)
For Friday's class, we'll introduce Marxism and how it relates to both Hughes' later poetry and the Harlem Renaissance in general. I gave you a handout which is the first part of Marx and Engels' The Communist Manifesto, a small document that made quite a stir in the late 1840s. However, it really gathered steam at the turn of the last century, as people felt a big revolution was in the air. This was certainly the case in Harlem, where many African-Americans felt that unless the political structure changed, white America would have no vested interest in changing the racial caste system.
We'll discuss the major tenets of Marxism (as its come to be called--sorry Engels), including definitions of the "bourgeoisie" and the "proletariat." As Marx and Engels write, "not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons--the modern working class--the proletarians" (71). This was welcome news to many poor, struggling, working class folk, especially those in Harlem. It also connects to the poem I, Too with its metaphors of the kitchen and future "beauty."
So make sure you've read all the Hughes poems, especially the explicitly Marxist poems like "Red Silk Stockings," "Ruby Brown," "Goodbye, Christ," and "Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria." See you then...